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The Alternative Augustan Age$
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Josiah Osgood, Kit Morrell, and Kathryn Welch

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190901400

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190901400.001.0001

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The Rise of the Centumviral Court in the Augustan Age

The Rise of the Centumviral Court in the Augustan Age

An Alternative Arena of Aristocratic Competition

(p.266) 17 The Rise of the Centumviral Court in the Augustan Age
The Alternative Augustan Age

Matthew Roller

Oxford University Press

Scholars rightly hold that the restoration of social and political order under Augustus involved restricting certain long-standing arenas of aristocratic competition. Less well known is that aristocrats generated new arenas of competition to fill the lacuna. This chapter examines the centumviral court, a civil court with jurisdiction over wills and succession matters. Virtually invisible in Cicero’s day, when the criminal courts reigned supreme, it emerged in the Augustan age as an important venue for aristocratic competition. This rise in status can be attributed to its continuing to offer large juries and large crowds (assisted by its installation in the refurbished Basilica Julia) even as the criminal courts lost prominence. Other new arenas for competitive eloquence (declamation, recitation, forensic oratory before the Senate or emperor) involved smaller, select audiences. The centumviral court therefore became ever more attractive to aristocratic orators aspiring to public visibility in the early principate.

Keywords:   centumviral court, Cicero, Augustus, criminal court, oratory, advocacy

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